On March 15, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York hauled in Marine Commandant General Robert Neller, lambasting him for the red-hot Marines United Internet photo-sharing scandal. She was not alone in expressing outrage that 30,000 members of the limited access Facebook community were sharing photos of female Marines without their consent.
It appears that most of the pictures of servicewomen were lifted from PG-rated social media sites, and AP reported that the “bulk” of them were selfies taken by women themselves. Still, sensational reports focused on nude pictures posted in restricted sections of Marines United and similar websites in the other services. Before the offensive pages were shut down, members-only could post and see photos of women in various stages of undress.
Regardless of how the pictures were obtained and how explicit they were, there was no excuse for male viewers to add identifying details and leering, snarky comments. Individuals who obtained Peeping-Tom photos by violating women’s privacy on military bases, or by re-posting intimate photos that women took and shared with former boyfriends, deserve punishment in accordance with current policy and law.
As in previous military sex scandals, however, this is not about crimes and punishments. It’s about ideology and a full-throated attack on the unique culture of the Marine Corps.
For decades, disdainful feminists have attacked the Marines “masculinist” culture and demanded psychological neutering to make the Corp more woman-friendly. We have seen sex scandals before, but if reports of online vitriol aimed at women Marines are true, this may be something new that requires objective analysis of cultural dissonance in the military.
The Sweep of Social and Cultural Change
In December 2015, the Obama Administration ordered the Marine Corps to assign minimally-qualified women to combat arms units such as the infantry on an involuntary basis. This was done even though then-Commandant General Joe Dunford asked for exceptions, which were supported with empirical data resulting from three years of scientific research.
Field tests had shown that all-male teams out-performed mixed gender units in 65 percent of typical land combat tasks, including casualty evacuations and long marches under heavy loads. The Marines warned that ignoring these factors would impede mission readiness and combat lethality, but in the New Gender Order, reality doesn’t count.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter disregarded General Dunford’s best professional advice, and members of Congress failed to exercise their constitutional responsibility for diligent oversight. Now we see Sen. Gillibrand and other critics blaming the Marine Corps for the consequences of policies made over the Marines’ objections.
This attitude ignores responsibilities that come with civilian control of the military. Members of Congress and Obama officials who are still making policy in the Pentagon should be held accountable for what they did or did not do when President Obama was mandating unsound policies for our military.
A few weeks after Secretary Carter announced his decision, the incoming Commandant, General Neller, dutifully submitted plans for making the women-in-combat experiment “work.” To overcome male resistance, the Corps began deploying mobile instructors to conduct mandatory training to eliminate “unconscious bias” against women.
Details of the curriculum have not been disclosed, but the instruction program reportedly ignores and tries to discredit rational objections that male and female Marines had previously stated in countless focus groups and official surveys.
Infantrymen whose lives may depend on the physical strength of soldiers next to them on the battlefield are supposed to pretend that concerns about their own survival are less important than “gender diversity metrics,” another name for quotas. One year later, what are we seeing?
Social Engineering Degrades Morale
Anonymous manifestations of hostility on the Internet may be a symptom not of misogyny, but misdirected resentment rising from unworkable policies that undermine mutual trust for survival.
Political correctness in the military undermines unit cohesion, which is properly defined as mutual trust for survival in battle. PC also weakens vertical cohesion, defined as two-way trust between commanders and the troops they lead.
In a Statement for the Record of the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, the Center for Military Readiness predicted that when misguided policies caused soldiers to be needlessly hurt and missions lost, military women would feel the brunt of resentment they did not deserve.
Could it be that resentments caused by constant attacks on masculinity are part of the problems evident on the Internet today? Someone needs to find out.
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution makes Congress responsible for military policies. With that power comes responsibility for results.
Politicians in Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon have repeatedly demanded military/social policies that elevate risks of physical and psychological harm to women and men alike. These policy-makers should share the blame for social disruption that has harmed women and not improved readiness in any way.
Perhaps frustration began with dual-track, gender-neutral standards at boot camp. Dishonest claims that men and women are interchangeable in the combat arms also may have fueled resentment among combat veterans who know better. No one should be surprised if military men and women question the judgment of leaders who keep trying to “mitigate” problems that should have been avoided in the first place.
Men who violated women’s privacy on the Internet should be punished, but the issue transcends individual guilt. Because civilians control the military, elected policymakers should be held accountable for going too far and asking too much. Uniformed military leaders cannot say that, but I just did.
Feminists’ Record of Failure
More than 20 years ago, Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder and other feminists in Congress argued that putting women into combat aviation would reduce problems of sexual misconduct. The same claim was made every time women’s combat exemptions were removed without any career advantages women don’t already have. Instead of going down, rates of sexual misconduct have escalated steeply, year after year.
Today’s feminists are demanding fixes for the “masculinist” Marine Corps. Since all land combat positions are open to women, the only target left is the Marines’ unique separate-gender boot camp training program, which is known to be superior in training both male and female recruits. No one has explained how adding male/female distractions in boot camp would somehow stop cruel or juvenile behavior on the Internet.
Instead of beating the men with clubs until morale improves, perhaps it is time to consider a different approach. What we need are policies that encourage discipline rather than indiscipline. Congress should consider the consequences of their own votes to expunge rational statutory language and findings that are missing from law today.
Differences in Military and Civilian Life
Section 654, Title 10, the 1993 law that the Senate repealed in the 2010 lame duck session, used to recognize that the military is a “specialized society” with unique requirements that are: “characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions, including numerous restrictions on personal behavior, which would not be acceptable in civilian society.”
Standards of conduct applied to a member of the armed forces at “all times that the member has a military status, whether the member is on base or off base, and whether the member is on duty or off duty.”
Absent these findings in law, regulations now enforce acceptance of LGBT personnel in the military, with few protections for personal privacy remaining. Priorities have been inverted, so almost any type of consensual sexual expression is legal.
For example, under President Obama’s transgender policies, Pentagon officials have ordered women to accept the presence of biological males in private showers and bathrooms. And the Marines recently announced that women assigned to infantry battalions would share two-person tents with men. In a process called “Real Life Experience” (RLE), a transitioning man can wear his uniform by day and a woman’s dress by night.
These and other politically correct policies are attempting to prove unsound theories about human sexuality. What could go wrong? Plenty.
Some advocates claim that male “sexism” is the primary cause of the photo-sharing scandal and all women are “victims” of that sexism. This “victim” paradigm is out of date; women engage in risky misconduct too.
Sound policies should recognize that military men and women are human beings with virtues and failings that occur regardless of gender or rank. Instead, feminist demands for a “gender-free” military require the destruction of “masculinist” tendencies so that human beings magically will behave like saints.
Creepy guys who post salacious pictures of women without their consent should be punished – even if the women set themselves up for betrayal by sending intimate photos willingly. Defense attorneys, however, likely will contend that their clients engaged in a form of sexual expression that does not violate current law made by Congress.
They will also argue that in the civilian world as well as in the military, many women seek attention with racy pictures of themselves. “Sexting” is common among straight and gay couples, married or not. These practices degrade our culture, but in the absence of contrary law, any form of consensual sexual expression could be construed as a constitutional right.
Legislation to prohibit photo-postings without consent might be helpful, but what if the postings are voluntary? According to USA Today, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) is trolling through photos of group sex, identifying airmen they will contact and ask if their pictures were posted without consent.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has assigned dozens of investigators to look into the matter, and facial recognition software is being used to find and ask individuals whether they consider themselves to be victims.
The same March 17 article reported that investigators are looking at “a slew of gay pornography web pages with images of men wearing military uniforms engaged in sex acts.” This is not surprising, since a Defense Department policy issued shortly after repeal of Section 654, Title 10 declared: “A person's sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter.”
In a new message, (ALMAR 008/17), General Neller reinforced cultural values that were weakened when Congress voted to repeal the 1993 law. He cited provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which still prohibit harassing or indecent behavior that is service-discrediting or prejudicial to good order and discipline.
The Commandant affirmed, “Marines represent the Marine Corps at all times, and their speech and conduct must consistently embody our core values . . ." He added, “Marines should think twice before engaging in questionable online activities.”
President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis also should think twice before capitulating to the same critics whose unsupported theories about gender equality repeatedly have been proven wrong. Military leaders should defend core values, and civilian leaders should stop imposing flawed policies that weaken core values and make social turmoil worse.
-- Elaine Donnelly, President, CMR
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Prepared by the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization founded in 1993, which reports on and analyses military/social issues. More information is available on the CMR website: www.cmrlink.org. To support CMR with a tax-deductible contribution, click here. You can also support CMR by visiting, liking, and sharing the CMR Facebook page.